Community demands better education for Black youth
Many groups target same goal
Black students in Los Angeles are struggling to improve their academic achievement, and there are a number of efforts under way to provide the resources needed to help them succeed.
One such effort is being pushed by Los Angeles Unified School Director Board of Education member Marguerite LaMotte and the others comes from the Coalition for Black Student Equity and the African American Education Alliance.
Board member LaMotte recently held an event in her district office entitled “Reconnecting the Academic Village.” This day-long conference is held each year and is open to all parents and other stakeholders in her district.
The whole purpose of the event according to Carole Cobb, Ph.D., coordinator for the LAUSD English Mastery Program, was to help attendees identify the roles of each stakeholder and then help them figure out how to carry out these responsibilities.
“Board member LaMotte has a gathering of District One schools every year and the idea is to give (parents, teachers, administrators, students and other stakeholders) a charge and a challenge,” added Cobb, who noted that one of the quests of the meeting is to help people think about what they can do outside of their comfort zone and/or their paid assignment to impact student achievement, and then to actually take the steps needed to move forward.
While this event focuses on all students in District One, a number of efforts are specifically working to make sure that the needs of Black are met. One of these is being advocated by the Coalition for Black Student Equity (CBSE), which is an umbrella organization that includes groups such as the Southern Christian Leaders Conference, the Los Angeles NAACP, the Urban League, the National Action Network as well as parents, students, teachers, administrators and other community stakeholders.
Over the last few months, CBSE has come together in a series of working town-hall meetings and crafted a set of demands to present to the LAUSD. The five areas addressed are policy and practices, parent and student engagement, curriculum, school site administration and engagement, as well as strategy and goals.
Among the specific requests are establishment of a professional development program that would be created by the school district no later than Jan. 31, 2011 to train teachers and administrative staff specifically on how to educate African American pupils with an emphasis on cultural awareness.
The document also demands that the school district, working with a community advisory board, offer a series of workshops designed to educate Black parents and caregivers on how to best advocate for their students to ensure that the appropriate educational milestones are being met.
In the area of curriculum, CBSE wants the African American Learners Initiative, which has already been approved by the LAUSD, fully funded and implemented.
Additionally the coalition expect the school district to insure that beginning in January, at graduation all African American pupils must be career and college ready.
CSBE has submitted a request to present these demands to the entire board of education.
In addition to these two efforts, the African American Education Alliance chaired by Cobb, is a coalition of educators, parents, and community members dedicated to assuring equitable access to quality educating for African American students.
“Our charge is to hold the LAUSD accountable for a transparent, culturally responsive educational system that strategically and unapologetically focuses on moving African American students at an accelerated pace to proficiency plus,” explained Cobb.
The educator says the basic tenet the alliance follows is the one espoused by the National Alliance of Black School Educators—education is a civil right.
David Starr Jordan High School sits smack within one of America’s best known ghettos—Watts. In the past, most of its students have consistently performed on par with the ambience of their surroundings.
My friend, Tavis Smiley, has a new documentary out on the plight of the Black male in America.
It’s a subject that has been part of the intellectual and academic discourse for the past decade. For the last five years, it has been the No. 1 issue in public education. For the past four years, it has been a subject of intense debate in Los Angeles, which has the worst large school district in the nation, right here in Tavis’ own backyard.
Sitting in the sparsely filled auditorium of Gardena High School in Los Angeles at the beginning of an annual senior awards ceremony, I looked around, and wondered; where the hell are the Black parents? I was attending the ceremony to see students from my Women’s Leadership Project program—the majority of whom are African American and en route to four-year colleges—receive much-deserved awards for service and academic achievement.
The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted Tuesday 5-2 to adopt the School Climate Bill of Rights, which consists of a resolution that bans “willful defiance” suspensions and directs LAUSD to enact common-sense approaches to school discipline and expand programs that support all students in becoming healthy, thriving adults.
African American students achieve at a different level than White students. Test scores are lower, as are high school and college completion rates, and the number of African Americans attending four-year institutions is falling. The rate of African American suspensions and expulsions from K-12 schools is higher than that of other groups. By almost any metric, there are gaps between African American students and White or Asian students (Latinos achieve at about the same rate as African Americans).